How To Get Back Into Work After A Spinal Cord Injury

When you have suffered a spinal cord injury the idea of returning to work may seem like a daunting prospect. However, there are many ways you can help make this process slightly less overwhelming:

What is a spinal cord injury (SCI)?

The spinal cord communicates two-way messages to and from the brain and skin, muscle and organs of your body. Spinal cord damage occurs as a result of accident or illness and interrupts the flow of messages, leading to the loss of movement and/or sensation in different parts of the body.  The severity of this is dependent on where the spinal cord has been damaged in relation to the vertebrae of the back and to the extent of the injury.

spinal cord injury

The benefits of returning to work?

Apart from the obvious physical impact, SCI can deeply affect your mental well-being. Depression and anxiety are a very common effect of this type of injury. Obviously, returning to work isn’t possible for everyone, but if it is an option, it can have the following positive effects:

  • Renewed independence and confidence
  • Improve your general health and well-being
  • Increase your self-esteem and give you a sense of purpose
  • Allow you to earn money and feeling like you are making a contribution
  • Encourage you to socialise and meet new people

Know your rights

Make sure that you are aware of all of your workplace rights. As a person with a disability you are legally protected by the Equality Act 2010. This ensures that you are legally entitled to fair treatment when it comes to recruitment, promotion and pay. It also means that employers must make their workplaces accessible to you. This may be by adapting the office equipment to make it easier for you to work, e.g. speech recognition software. Or by ensuring that you meet with an occupational therapist to discuss your skills, abilities and concerns so that they can come up with viable work options.

There are also two government schemes that you can access to help with your return to work:

  • Access To Work – provides money towards the cost of equipment or support workers that can help you to work.
  • Work Choice – a scheme that helps people with disabilities who cannot be helped by any other work scheme, get back into work.

For further information and help on returning back into the work place visit GOV.UK here.

Finances

You may be able to claim government benefits to help you return to work. Employment Support Allowance is offered not only to people who are unable to work due to disability/illness, but also to people who need personalised help so that they are able to work if they want to.

If your SCI was as the result of an accident that wasn’t your fault you may be able to claim compensation. Specialist companies like First4SeriousInjury can advise as to whether you are applicable for compensation and support you throughout your claim journey, reducing the stress involved in receiving what you may be owed.

Before we get into those, let’s get into the benefits of re-entering the workforce. Life changes so much after a spinal cord injury, that going back to work can provide a semblance of normalcy needed by the survivor. Work allows the survivor to feel useful, engage his or her brain, apply his or her talents and experience, and make friends and social connections. No wonder why it’s one of the main goals of all SCI survivors following rehabilitation!

However, a re-entry that isn’t thoughtful can have negative consequences. To that end, we suggest the survivor spend some time being assessed and counselled by a vocational therapist. The vocational therapist will assess the skills, interests, and capabilities of the person, and will help him or her come up with viable work options. The therapist can also ensure that the work environment is modified in a way that gives the survivor the best chance of success. Survivors who had jobs with certain physical requirements may need to change jobs or careers following the injury, while other people can perform their prior jobs with just a few adaptations. In either case, what’s most important is that the strengths of the survivor are focused on, instead of the weaknesses. Most vocational therapists, working with both the survivor and the employer, will develop a strategy designed to help the person succeed.

Guide to better understand people with dementia – The Good Care Group

The Good Care Group offer high quality live in care services, for elderly people to live in their home for as long as possible. Their eye-opening and educational dementia guide offers a ‘person-centred’ analysis of the lives of those affected by dementia, offering guidance on how you can help and support individuals with dementia live well.

The Good Care Group provides the reader with a compelling and informative resource, suitable for all those whose lives have been affected by dementia.

Understanding dementia

Dementia is a “collection of syndromes resulting from damage to the brain”, Alzheimer’s being the most common type of dementia.

Memory, thinking speed, mental agility, understanding and judgement are all functions that can be affected by dementia. The Good Care Group highlight that although these symptoms are common amongst most individuals with dementia, the rate of progression varies from person to person and is dependent on the type of dementia, as well as the overall health and lifestyle of the individual. The Good Care Group encourages anyone who is concerned about dementia to seek help by talking to their GP.

Care Guide

Feelings more important than facts

It becomes difficult for people with dementia to store new factual information. However, the feelings that a person experiences do continue to be stored as normal. Therefore a person with dementia will always know how they are feeling, but they may not know why. The guide quotes Christine Bryden, diagnosed at age 46 with Alzheimer’s Disease; “As we become more emotional and less cognitive, it’s the way you talk to us, not what you say, that we remember”.

In the absence of recent factual memories, people with dementia are likely to search for much older factual memories, possibly from youth, to help make sense of their current situation. The guide offers tips on how to effectively communicate with the person, mentioning the importance of creating a calm and relaxed environment, and joining the reality the person is living in rather than constantly contradicting them.

Adopt a ‘Person-First’ approach

The useful guide states we must adapt to a ‘person-first approach’ in the household. Pam Schweitzer proposes that looking through family photos, listening to familiar music and visiting memorable places; may help sustain a better relationship between family and patient, as well as carer. This helps the patient feel at ease by reminiscing over happier memories.

‘Three Golden Rules developed by Contended Dementia – simple, yet highly effective person-first approach, developed

A part of The SPECAL® method, this person centred approach can greatly improve wellbeing and quality of life.

  1. To avoid asking direct questions

It is important to avoid asking direct question that require factual information, this increases awareness of their disability which in return causes more stress and grief.

  1. Listen to the expert

It’s important to listen to what the person affected is saying, to base our questions and answers from their perspective; any information they receive should generate good feelings for them.

  1. Do not contradict

It’s important to not argue with them, we must not sidetrack them from pre-dementia memories, as they are used to make sense of the current moment. We must support and validate what they are saying as being correct.

Assistive Technology and examples

The Good Care Group promotes the use of assistive technology as an aid for greater autonomy.

Helpful technology includes:

  • Taking tracking devices on walks, which allow patients to have a greater sense of independence
  • Telecare sensors to monitor the person and can notify a nominated person or call centre if they have fallen or have left home during the night
  • Introducing adapted versions of household appliances such as doorbells and telephones with larger buttons and bolder colours

It is important to note assistive technology is more effective when introduced in the early stages of dementia; gradual introduction of these technologies can prevent confusion. The guide also states assistive technology is best when combined with a ‘person-centred’ care service.

Download the full guide at: http://www.thegoodcaregroup.com/live-in-care/dementia/dementia-care-guide/